Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

Borneo Panel at the Seventh Euroseas Conference 2-7 July 2013, Lisbon, Portugal

Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

Borneo Panel at the Seventh Euroseas Conference 2-7 July 2013, Lisbon, Portugal

Article excerpt

The European Association for South East Asian Studies (EuroSEAS), founded in 1992, is an international initiative meant to foster scholarly cooperation within Europe in the field of Southeast Asian Studies. The Association is the only pan-European scientific organization dedicated to Southeast Asian studies and its members work in all areas of the humanities and social sciences. The main EuroSEAS activity is the organization of an international conference. Previous conferences were held in Leiden (1995), Hamburg (1998), London (2001), Paris (2004), Naples (2007), and Gothenburg ('P010). For more information on the conference, see


Convenor: Kenneth Sillander, University of Helsinki

This panel explores the dynamics of ethnic classification and interaction in Borneo, with a view to understanding both historical and current patterns, and how they reflect indigenous notions and state politics. Administratively divided into Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan), Brunei and the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Borneo is an island of remarkable ethno-cultural diversity, often compared to that of highland Burma. Ethnohistories reveal a pattern of fluid, transient, and frequently overlapping identities. Group relations were typically characterized by what Patricia Spyer calls "entanglement," qualities defying the "strict oppositional logic" associated with modernity and essentialist, nation-state modelled notions of ethnicity, a pattern still persisting in many contexts. Even the categories of "Dayak" (indigenous non-Muslims) and "Malay" (Malay-speaking Muslims), into which the island's population is popularly divided are rather loosely bounded categories between which considerable interethnic traffic and intercultural influence has occurred. However, the two last centuries have witnessed a development toward increasing ethnic consolidation and objectification, reflecting a variety of influences including colonialism, nationalism, discourses on indigeneity, and pre- and postcolonial multiculturalist politics. The contributions to the panel document the effects of such influences, and of indigenous notions of belonging and otherness, on patterns of identification and intergroup relations in a variety of contexts in different parts of the island.

Identities in Borneo: Construction, Transformations and Boundaries

Victor T. King, Universiti Brunei Darussalam

This paper focuses on a rapidly expanding field of research in the social sciences in Borneo. There has been a noticeable focus on the multidisciplinary, multidimensional study of identities and ethnicities in Borneo in the last two decades, even though the identification of units for analysis and the labelling of ethnic groups or categories have enjoyed a long history in Borneo Studies. An important stimulus for the more recent increase in scholarly interest was the major conference held in Sarawak in 1988 which explored issues of ethnicity in the state and then the publication by the Sarawak Museum of four volumes of papers in 1989, organized primarily in terms of the major ethnic groups identified in the state. Other key moments in this developing interest was the publication of Jerome Rousseau's Central Borneo: Ethnic Identity and Social Life in a Stratified Society (1990), and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing's In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in an Out-of-the-Way Place (1993). A more recent manifestation of this expanding interest is the edited book by Zawawi Ibrahim Representation, Identity and Multiculturalism in Sarawak (2008), and Peter Metcalf's The Life of the Longhouse: an Archaeology of Ethnicity (2010). This paper arranges the contributions (by no means exhaustively) into six categories: (1) the nation-state, majorities and minorities; (2) the media, identities and nation-building; (3) borderlands, margins and identities; (4) inter-ethnic relations and violence; (5) arenas for identity construction in tourism and museums; and, finally (6) emerging middle classes, lifestyles and identities. …

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